Multinational Corporations and Organization Theory: Post Millennium Perspectives: Volume 49

Cover of Multinational Corporations and Organization Theory: Post Millennium Perspectives
Subject:

Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxi
Content available

Part I: Setting the Scene

Abstract

This article takes stock of interdisciplinary research on Multinational Corporations (MNCs) by elucidating paradigmatic shifts in the world of MNCs in the new millennium and analysing more recent developments in the disciplines of International Business (IB) and Organization Theory (OT). The article also introduces the altogether 14 individual contributions of this 49th volume of the Research in the Sociology of Organizations series. It closes by looking into the questions of where interdisciplinary OT/IB research on MNCs is now and where it is likely to go in the future.

Abstract

The East India Company can lay claim to being the world’s first company whose operations involved systematic organization of multiple countries. It was a pioneer and innovator: it was one of the first companies to offer limited liability to its shareholders; it laid the foundations of the British empire; it spawned Company Man; it developed its own ‘university’. It was a trader, merchant, mercenary, military force and civil administrator; a pioneer bureaucracy as well as being a lean operation. Using an analytic lens drawn from contemporary discussion on MNCs the article reviews the role of the East India Company over its life and draws parallels with contemporary MNCs.

Part II: Further Development of Established Debates

Abstract

The role of HQ in the contemporary MNC has recently received a good deal of research attention. This article argues that the contemporary MNC requires an organizational model that can embrace different perspectives of the HQ role. The same HQ must at times hierarchically lead the firm and at other times assume a more passive, facilitative role that allows direct interaction and decision making among the subunits to coordinate interdependency within the firm. To achieve this integration, the article proposes a contingency model that specifies when the HQ should assume a hierarchical role and when it should assume a facilitative role.

Abstract

We argue for major re-orientation when applying a neo-institutional perspective within the domain of international business (IB), and in research on the multinational corporation (MNC), in particular. On the one hand, we suggest re-conceptualizing MNCs as globally oriented organizations that nonetheless remain firmly anchored in local cultural settings. On the other hand, it seems crucial for institutionalist IB literature to engage more thoroughly with the core underlying assumptions, theoretical constructs, and recent extensions of neo-institutional theory. We present an overview and systematic evaluation of the current state of institutional approaches toward the MNC, and contrast it with research foci that will emerge from a phenomenological-institutional analysis.

Abstract

Previous research has been relatively insensitive to the potential combined effects that the shared industry background and country of origin might play in the development of MNCs. This is although there are various external constituents that pose distinctive demands especially on such groups of MNCs. The 15-year period of internationalization of three major Finnish paper companies examined in this study represents MNC development as a collective endeavor in which individual companies are especially influenced both by each other and by their joint external constituents. These influences materialize in analogous timing and patterns of internationalization across individual companies. In its entirety, the study thus suggests that the development of MNCs which operate in the same line of industry and originate from the same country can be considered an outcome of a mutual process that involves interaction both with each other and their shared external constituents. This also means that MNCs then are not only competitors, but simultaneously also a source of mutual support in their ever-continuing evolution.

Abstract

This article explores the contribution of ethnographic studies to our understanding of multinational corporations, through a literature review and through a case study of BMW Plant Oxford. The study considers that ethnographic studies can provide a more complex view of power relations between managers and workers, and can develop embedded perspectives taking into account the influences from outside the firm on its employees’ actions, developing the image of the firm not as a solitary entity, but as embedded in complex global networks and social discourses.

Part III: New Conceptual and Methodological Approaches in the Study of the MNC

Abstract

The multilingual MNC provides a promising territory for enhancing the dialogue between organization theory and International Business. We draw parallels between research on the multinational corporation and that on the multilingual corporation. Our review shows that the changing conceptualizations of the MNC toward a network model have carved space for language-sensitive research in International Business. We scrutinize this stream of research from the viewpoint of three organization theory lenses: the role of language in organizational design and architecture, in identity building and culture, and in organizational political systems, and comment on future research.

Abstract

The article develops a model which conceptualizes headquarter-subsidiary relations in the multinational corporation as a multilevel discursive struggle between key managers. At the first level, the relations are conceptualized as a discursive struggle over decisions and actions using rationalistic discourses. At the second level, they are viewed as a discursive struggle over power relations using control and autonomy discourses. Finally, underlying the first two, at the third level, headquarter-subsidiary relations are conceptualized as a discursive struggle over managers’ worldviews using cultural (pre)conceptions about “the self” and “the other.”

Abstract

This article argues that critical realism (CR) offers an ontological position suited to understanding the dynamic relations between multinational companies (MNCs) and the complex political spaces within which they operate. After outlining the core assumptions of CR, the key arguments are elaborated through two case studies which focus on issues of staffing and expatriation. The first case concerns recent developments in the Middle East, highlighting the shifting reality of nationality-based definitions of staffing the MNC, and the second examines the internationalisation of Chinese firms, exploring the way MNCs restructure space to retain access to home-country advantages.

Abstract

How headquarter (HQ) and subsidiary actors end conflicts and reach agreements is an important but still under-researched question in multinational corporations (MNC) literature. This conceptual article approaches these conflict dynamics from the Convention Theory perspective. Convention Theory draws attention to justice principles (known as “order of worth”) and to the material aspects in relations between MNC actors. We offer a framework that contributes to HQ-subsidiary relations research in three ways: (1) it links conflicts to justice principles, (2) it enriches the understanding of the stability of agreements, and (3) it sheds light on the activities needed for realizing preferred arrangements.

Abstract

Kostova, Roth and Dacin called in 2008 for the advancement of a theoretical conception of the multinational corporation (MNC) that takes into account both power relationships among actors and the structure of its internal institutional field. While micro-political scholars of MNCs have started to answer the former part of the call regarding power, the second part has not been thoroughly addressed yet. Furthermore, the agentic aspects typical of power games and the structural aspects characterizing institutional fields have not been fully combined in a multi-level perspective of MNCs so far. Leaning on Bourdieu, we suggest an answer to the pending call. We theorize the MNC as a playing field of power emerging around the issue of finding a meta-rate of conversion of the actors’ capitals constituted in national fields. We conceive such issue field in a dynamic state due to the constant entry and exit of new players (e.g. through mergers, acquisitions or divestitures). This results in the need to continuously test the validity of exchange rates. The role of the metainstitutional field level of the MNC as a global category is also discussed.

Part IV: The Contemporary MNC: An Internally and Externally Politicized Organization

Abstract

The article builds upon recent developments in feminist theories as they were adopted in organization studies to review the state of research into women in MNCs and to offer new directions for the study of MNCs as “gendering organizations,” both as they are shaped by gender relations and are active agents in constructing gender categories, division of labor, images, and inequalities. Juxtaposing insights from gender studies and International Business and Management, the article offers a new agenda for the studies of corporate internationalization and its social consequences.

Abstract

This contribution conceptualizes the politicization of MNCs from outside – the processes by which MNCs become confronted with demands for regulation and engage in political contestation with other non-state actors. It compares two global industries, athletic footwear and toys, to show that the dynamics of politicization follow different trajectories, which are only partially to explain with structural differences across industry fields. If politicization leads to increasing political functioning of business or to a depoliticization of criticism depends to a great extend on the agency of business and their capacity to strategically counter mobilization, but also on the difficulties for activist to construct continuing collective action across a diverse range of cultural-institutional settings.

Abstract

Conventional international business (IB) theories generally view multinational corporations (MNCs) as agents of economic exchange and as ethically benign or neutral. This article explores a darker side of IB, with numbers of IB firms involved in activities that could be considered unethical or illegal, or both. Drawing on a taxonomy of ‘black international business’ (black IB), and both historic and recent examples, this article outlines such MNC activities. It explores impacts of these activities on stakeholders, including nation-states, businesses and individuals. The authors call for academics within the field of organizational studies to create awareness and understanding of such activities.

Abstract

Multinational corporations (MNCs) utilize corporate social responsibility (CSR) to govern their global economic activities. Yet CSR adoption is influenced by institutional diversity of both home and host countries. This article uses neoinstitutional and comparative capitalism theories to understand how CSR is shaped by different forms of stakeholder salience in diverse institutional contexts. Using data on labor rights CSR adoption by 629 European MNCs, our empirical results indicate that CSR complements institutionalized stakeholder power in home countries, but substitutes for its absence in host countries. Hence, CSR may paradoxically legitimate MNC behavior given both the presence and absence of stakeholder rights.

Index

Pages 491-501
Content available
Cover of Multinational Corporations and Organization Theory: Post Millennium Perspectives
DOI
10.1108/S0733-558X201749
Publication date
2017-02-17
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-386-3
eISBN
978-1-78635-385-6
Book series ISSN
0733-558X